"Bernard Haitink: The Symphony Edition" is one of two recent box sets from Decca, marking Haitink's eighty-fifth birthday in 2014. Together with Haitink: The Philips Years this set offers a broad, tantalizing overview of the great Dutch conductor's compelling artistry, and makes a near-perfect introduction to one of the truly magnificent recorded legacies of our time. Haitink will be 85 on 4 March 2014, and this set presents his six complete symphonic cycles by cornerstone classical composers: Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, Schumann and Tchaikovsky.
The Piano Concerto No. 2 is also Beethoven in classical mode, using an orchestra that would have suited a Mozart piano concerto equally well. What marks it out from other classical works of the time are the solo outbursts in each of the first two movements. In the first, a contrapuntal cadenza with exciting modulations takes us into new and more individual territory, in which the keyboard becomes absolutely the composers focus; in the second we are treated to some powerful, improvisatory solos. The last movement, a rondo with a highly rhythmic main theme in 6/8, manages to introduce a descending chromatic progression towards the end and closes with the piano oscillating rapidly between major and minor chords (a light hearted conclusion to the piece, but one which taxes every pianist).
Composer: Gustav Mahler
Performer: Elly Ameling, Aafje Heynis, Maureen Forrester, Ileana Cotrubas, Hermann Prey, Marianne Dieleman, Birgit Finnilä, Heather Harper, Hanneke van Bork, William Cochran, Hans Sotin
Conductor: Bernard Haitink
Orchestra/Ensemble: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Chorus, St. Willibrod Boy's Choir, Netherlands Radio Women's Chorus, Stern des Volks, Amsterdam Toonkunst Chorus, Collegium Musicum Amstelodamense, St. Pius X Children's Choir, St. Willibrod Children's Chorus
For years Philips has witlessly reissued, over and over, Edo de Waart's not particularly spectacular Rotterdam recording of Saint-Saëns' "Organ" Symphony, letting this superb version, one of the great modern recordings of the piece, languish out of print. If you missed it during its 15 minutes of availability back in 1985, here's your chance to make amends…. Haitink's Bizet Symphony always has been a reference recording, distinguished by its stunning playing (marvelous oboe solo in the second movement) and unfailing elegance of phrasing. Indeed, the approach is quite similar to de Waart's